Rigoberto Vinas

Bar Mitzvah Year 9/11 – Thoughts of a Police Chaplain

As Chaplain and therefore a member of the Yonkers New York Police Department, my thoughts are heavy and filled with emotion when remembering the events of the vicious 9/11 attacks on our country — 13 years ago.

My thoughts also run to the many conversations and hours of counseling and sharing feelings of fear and frustrations of Police Officers who lost so many friends on that day — 13 years ago.

Seeing hardened and strong uniformed men and women who serve their communities and face certain danger for the sake of others everyday get teary eyed and emotional as they share memories and hopes that what occurred 13 years ago today never occur again, moves me deeply. I seek words to heal them but I have none except to give them what they give me companionship and a promise to remain loyal to them and grateful to them for what they do for us.

In my capacity as a Chaplain in the Yonkers Police Department I was asked to share my thoughts and to offer a prayer as an invocation to the annual 9-11 memorial in front of the City of Yonkers 9-11 monument. The monument is a simple one. It is a raw and battered beam from the world trade center erected in Coner Park alongside the highway the carried so many of our first responders who ran towards that holy ground to assist others.

(L) H.R. Congressman Eliot Engle, NYS Assemblywoman Shelly Mayer, Rabbanit Sandra  and Rabbi Rigoberto Viñas  at 9-11 Yonkers Memorial Photo by Robert Kalfus ©2014
(L) H.R. Congressman Eliot Engle, NYS Assemblywoman Shelly Mayer, Rabbanit Sandra and Rabbi Rigoberto Viñas at 9-11 Yonkers Memorial Photo by Robert Kalfus ©2014

My thoughts as Rabbi and their Chaplain on this “Bar Mitzvah” year of remembrance is that usually a Bar Mitzvah is a time of celebration. But there is also a serious component to the Bar Mitzvah since it is a moment when a boy becomes “a man.”

As a man he can no longer live pretending that everything is ok. As a man he takes responsibility to carry out his duties towards others no matter how uncomfortable and regrettable they must be – as an adult he confronts situations and makes serious decisions. He must do things that he would rather not do – but that is the definition of responsibility and adulthood.

Today during our Bar Mitzvah Year 13 years after the 9-11 attacks by vicious terrorists – we must make these adult decisions and go to war to destroy those who continue to attack innocent people throughout the world. It is not a decision that we take lightly. It is not one which we want to make. But it is one that we must make because we are adults and adults sometimes confront ugly situations and take steps to prevent them from becoming even uglier. We must stop them before they create even more chaos around the world. They took our innocence from us. Now as we reach Bar Mitzvah we take responsibility to face difficult situations and engage with the future to prevent it from being an ugly one.

We just ask for one thing – please God, help us be successful. Stay with us, we don’t engage in this out of hatred to the others but due to our love of our brothers and sisters whom the terrorists seek to destroy. Makes us successful in our just fight and heal us from our wounds. Amen

About the Author
Rabbi Rigoberto Emmanuel Viñas (“Manny”), grew up in a traditional Sephardic home, born to parents of Cuban Sefardic ancestry who came to America after the Cuban Revolution in 1960. He was born and raised in Miami , Florida. Rabbi Viñas has Rabbinical ordination from Kollel Agudath Achim.
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